France’s history with wines can be traced back to the times of the Roman Empire. When the Romans expanded, they planted vineyards as they went. The religious orders in France took care to protect these grape vines during the Dark Ages. Many noble varieties of grapes are ones that have been refined in France over the centuries to produce a high quality of flavor. Chardonnay in any other place is Chardonnay, but in France it can be Chablis, with a flavor unique to that location.
France’s climate and geography makes it quite unique, and in many ways perfect for growing grapes. The growing season is long, not too hot, with just the right amount of rainfall. Much of the soil is chalk and limestone, providing great drainage for the vines. The centuries of research they have done on the grapes has taught the French just which grapes grow in each particular area.
It may seem confusing at first to figure out what French wines are all about. But really, each region in France is known mostly for a single type of grape. If you get a bottle of Chablis, it is made from the Chardonnay grape. If you get a bottle of Beaujolias, it is made from gamay. If you study up which grapes are grown in which regions, you’ll be all set!